— aka.spvn

So it’s high time I got around to doing this, actually blogging on this shell of a blog for once. I’ve been doing this for a the past few years and I really should keep this up else nothing will ever get posted here. I’m talking about new year resolutions of course.

Surprisingly I actually accomplished more than I expected. I totally forgot about this list after I posted it last year but I seem to have somewhat kept to it.

Resolutions for 2013

  1. Read more, really want to keep reading more - Definitely started reading more from the summer break onwards. Really should finish the Animorphs series soon, been a real nostalgia trip trying to finish the whole series now. Haven’t quite read as much as I would have liked, but close enough.
  2. Write more, I want to stop letting this blog rot away - Definitely failed miserably at this. I had a grand total of ONE post the entire 2013. It’s amazing how difficult it is to actually start writing even when I feel like it.
  3. Exercise. Feels good to start playing basketball again after two whole years of not touching it – Kind of failed at this one as well. Did alright during the first half of the year but then just kind of fell off…
  4. Keep studying hard. I really am a changed man since uni began, I’m actually paying attention. Wonder how long I can keep it up  - Didn’t do as well this semester, but I don’t really regret the amount of effort I put in. I did what I could, just hope I can somehow pull it up again during the coming semesters.
  5. PLAY MORE GAMES. I can’t believe I’m spending so little time playing games nowadays till the point where I actually have to put this in my new year’s resolutions - Might have overdone it on this one. I actually started playing Dota again, something I never ever imagined myself getting back into. It’s been nice to start playing games again, no idea how I got off it in the first place, but I got to keep it under control still.
  6. Get an internship? - Don’t even get me started on this one. Every single internship requires prior experience, which is kind of hard to get if I haven’t had an internship before. Of course, you’re expected to be a code junkie and have googled everything before and coded webpages and iPhone apps and everything prior to even thinking about getting an internship. The one internship I could apply for that didn’t have such stringent requirements ended up netting me an interview at Sommerset 313… at Toast Box in the middle of the food court. And even then the guy STILL expected me to have experience, he just didn’t list it in the requirements, and he expected me to work for free. If internships in tech are this hard to get, I’m dreading trying to find a job in the future…
  7. Code an actual program for once? - Nope, didn’t do this either, though I did start reading up and watching a ton of game development tutorials. Despite thinking that I would only play games and never develop them, it’s almost starting to look like that’s what I might end up doing anyway…
  8. Be nicer to Char. 4.5 years and still going <3 - 5.5 now :)

Now on to this year I guess:

Resolutions for 2014

  1. Read even more.
  2. Write. Write. Write. Write. Write. Aiming to have at least a post a month here. I’ve slacked off for way too long.
  3. Improve at pool. Consistently. I want to be able to run out almost any open table by the end of the year.
  4. Exercise. I can’t believe how pale I’m getting, kind of disgusting…
  5. Code. No seriously I really gotta start coding if I want to actually have a shot at getting an internship.
  6. Learn stuff. I don’t know if it’s because I recently started watching a bit of Jeopardy, but I really have lost touch with current affairs and my general knowledge isn’t what it used to be (relatively speaking). This resolution is kind of weird, but I just hope to actually learn some meaningful stuff this year.
  7. Study Study Study.
  8. As always, be nicer to Char. 5.5 years in a couple day’s time. <3

Looking back, it seems like I’ve finally given up on the piano. It’s just too time consuming and especially since I started staying in school I rarely have access to one anyway. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in a couple of years. We’ll see.

I guess I kind of “wasted” 2013 away. Nothing too memorable or noteworthy. Here’s to a better 2014.

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So I’ve always had this habit of writing one of these New Year’s Resolutions posts at the start of each year… except this time this post has come almost 2 months late. I’ve been really hesitant about keeping this blog going, considering how I barely even use it. But yet I just can’t bear to let it go. I already regret letting my previous domain go, so I guess I’ll just keep sticking with this one.

So this was last year’s list:

Resolutions for 2012

  1. Read more – eh… did that, kind of…
  2. Play the piano more – nope… I think I’ve pretty much given up on this one.
  3. Write more – definitely didn’t do this.
  4. Get off the computer more (my poor eyes) – nope.
  5. Excercise. Excercise. Excercise. – definitely did this more… at least when school started. But of course I wasn’t exercising at all previously so even the little bit of basketball I played is considered as having exercised “more”.
  6. Get a job before uni starts – worked at SOTA! At least I fulfilled one of my resolutions.
  7. Do some coding for fun – Kind of did this… but gave up real quick.
  8. Complete NaNoWriMo for the first time ever – I realised that I won’t be able to do NaNoWriMo for the next couple of years because it’s way too close to finals
  9. And finally, because she’ll kill me if I don’t put this on here, be even nicer to Charlotte. – Kind of did?

Seeing as how I barely managed anything from my list last year, I think I’ll have to come up with a more feasible list this year…

Resolutions for 2013

  1. Read more, really want to keep reading more.
  2. Write more, I want to stop letting this blog rot away
  3. Exercise. Feels good to start playing basketball again after two whole years of not touching it.
  4. Keep studying hard. I really am a changed man since uni began, I’m actually paying attention. Wonder how long I can keep it up.
  5. PLAY MORE GAMES. I can’t believe I’m spending so little time playing games nowadays till the point where I actually have to put this in my new year’s resolutions.
  6. Get an internship?
  7. Code an actual program for once?
  8. Be nicer to Char. 4.5 years and still going <3

Well I can’t think of anything else for now. This should be quite a relaxed recess week seeing as how I only have two mid-terms and just two “essays” to write over the week. Hope this sem goes just as smoothly as the last one did.

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Ok I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last blogged. 5 months in fact. So much stuff has happened in my life and I never noted down a single thing. It was only this past week when I was forced fork out 60 bucks just to renew this server and domain for another year did I realise that I really should make better use of this site. I guess I wanted this blog to be full of “thoughtful” posts and musings rather than being treated as a diary, but that’s just stupid. (Also I’m usually really lazy to write “what-happened-today” kind of posts)

NUS

University started. It feels kind of weird to think of myself as being a Uni student now. University has always been this murky unknown, unlike every other prior phase of my education. 6 years of primary school, 4 years of secondary school, 2 years of JC, 2 years of army… then what? Suddenly there’s no structure to it anymore. Heck there’s more structure in the working world than in uni. With an office job, you wake up at 7, go through a boring day till you reach home at 7 (if you’re lucky) and spend a few hours doing what you want, go to sleep, then rinse and repeat. That’s a typical working day.

There’s no such thing as a typical day at uni. Your timetable’s different everyday, your schedule is different from one week to the next, you have CCAs, you study different things every 6 months, etc. There’s just so much change, all the time… which is precisely what makes university life so damn fun.

For the record working life is way easier than studying for a degree. But studying for a degree is insanely more fun than working. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t slogged it out in an office for a couple of years will understand this. You do have less things to do at an office job, and you don’t have homework or exams. But the same damn schedule and tasks that repeat themselves all the time make working life a chore. Studying is way harder, and way more effort is required. But the constant change in your life (something that students take for granted) just makes it all worthwhile.

Not to mention you actually have friends instead of colleagues. I remember the first time I asked my parents what the word “colleague” meant and they told me it’s what you call people you work with, I immediately wondered why they didn’t just use the word “friends”. I mean, everyone in my class was my “friend”. We’re just all friends aren’t we?

Studying in NUS also meant that I got to move into Tembusu College at UTown. For the first time in my life, I had a room to myself. I could come and go as I please. The freedom of having your own place 5/7 days a week is just absolutely AWESOME. I could sleep whenever I wanted to, study when I wanted to, where I wanted to, etc. It’s a breath of fresh air really. Having to do your own laundry and stuff like that is a really small price to play. Not to mention UTown is a really nice environment to live in. Not to mention there’s an entire complex opening up next January. Can’t wait to get back there in a few weeks.

Studying is also actually pretty fun and not THAT hard. At least not in my first semester. I mean it’s way tougher than anything I’d ever done before, but after watching Char put in so much effort and still struggle for two whole years made me prepared for what was to come. For the first time in my life, I’m actually paying attention in class (well, mostly…). I’ve actually paid FULL attention to a few two hour lectures this sem, something that was previously unthinkable. The exams are hard no doubt, but there’s always the bell curve to the rescue. At least now when I make careless mistakes in math it all evens out because everyone else makes careless mistakes as well (hopefully :P). Getting the results in about 4 days, quite hopeful :D

Pool… again!

The holidays thus far have been used for almost nothing but catching up on all the games I’ve missed out on, and pool training. First time in my life I’m actually seriously training at pool. It also just struck me recently that the last time I played snooker seriously was 5 years ago back in secondary school. I never realised how much time had passed since that period of my life. I never treated pool seriously, always felt it was just too easy to bother putting effort into. I remember when I would switch over to a pool table for awhile after playing for hours on a snooker table, suddenly every single ball seemed so damn easy to pot. Almost every single shot on a pool table was unmissable as long as it was a remotely reasonable shot. I could run a game of 8 ball in one visit to the table without controlling the cue ball at all, because regardless of what ridiculous shot I left myself with I’d just pot it. 9-ball was way harder of course, but I always felt that snooker was a more worthy investment of my time.

Gone are those days of course, for now I struggle with even some of the simpler shots on a pool table. 5 years of not playing really does take its toll. Of course, now that I’m actually putting in the effort to train, pool isn’t as easy as it seemed. Well 9-ball at least. It’s just quite annoying that I have to take the time to get my accuracy back, and makes me really wish I had never stopped playing snooker. But then again 5 years ago I never considered the possibility that I might end up getting a chance to represent NUS at pool. That being said, I do hope I get into the school team eventually, it’s still too early to tell and I have no idea what my chances are. Though I have to say that putting in so much effort and not getting a chance to represent the school would be quite disappointing.

Well I think this has been a sufficiently long and rambling post, so it’s time for it to end. Off to watch more of the Mosconi Cup!

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Ok honestly, I’ve been meaning to write this post for months. At the end of the first week I was thinking to myself “I think I should blog about my first impressions of being a teacher”. But I just kept procrastinating to no end. 

Considering how today was my last day teaching lower-sec math at SOTA, coupled with the fact that I love typing on my brand new MBA (it literally just arrived this evening), I think it’d be appropriate that I dump all my thoughts about being a teacher into one giant blog post.

No…

First off, teaching’s not for me. It’s not the actual teaching that’s difficult. The actual teaching is pretty fun actually, and really quite satisfying when you see the kids get what you’re trying to say. But of course, that satisfaction relies on the fact that they’re actually listening to you in the first place. Only now do I understand the frustration of talking to a huge group of people and have next to none of them be interested in what you’re saying.

And yet that’s not even the biggest issue I have with being a teacher. All you have to do to deal with noisy kids is to just scream and shout at them a couple of times, give them the silent treatment a couple of times, and that’s that. Unfortunately I started off being quite lenient with them, taking the whole “I can’t be bothered with you if you don’t want to listen, your choice” approach. So I really could’t summon the strength to change into super-strict-annoying-shouty teacher near the end when they started climbing over my head.

Anyway, as I was saying (told you this was going to be a long post), the biggest issue isn’t controlling kids. It’s all the stuff you have to do OUTSIDE of the lessons themselves. There are a million little small things teachers have to remember. I need to print 2 extra worksheets for this class and 3 extra for this other class. This class is sitting for this test on Monday but the other one’s only taking it on Thursday. I stopped at this point in the notes for this class, but this one outside of the other class. Oh yeah and I got to attend meetings, reply emails, create notes, set a paper. The list goes on and on and on. And I was just a relief teacher. I have no idea what it’s like for normal teachers.

For two years in NS, I had to remember a few major issues, not a million tiny ones.

Of course, for most teachers, I guess the satisfaction of actually teaching students makes up for all the other random stuff they need to settle. As I mentioned earlier, it definitely is immensely satisfying when you see the light bulb flick on in kid’s head. I guess it’s just that such flicking of light bulbs didn’t happen that often enough to warrant all the other stuff in my case.

It could have been worse…

But of course there are plenty of jobs out there worse than being a teacher. The great thing about teaching is the ever-changing schedule. Every single day is different from the last, which is a breath of fresh air from sitting in front of a computer from 8 to 5.30 and then going home. You’re moving about constantly, doing different things everyday (some days it’s marking, some days it’s mostly lesson preps, etc.). All of this just serves to ensure each day is anything but monotonous.

It’s not easy!

I never realised how much time and effort went into planning lessons for kids. I mean the depth to which teachers go to figure out the most appropriate questions that should be set. It’s not as simple as figuring out what skills are tested for each question, but also trying to figure out how in the world the kids will attempt to tackle the question. Teachers spend a considerable amount of time simply trying to piece together a student’s (ridiculous) train of thought when confronted with any particular question.

Even after so much effort is put in to ensure that students will be able to understand and learn from certain questions, that ultimately doesn’t always end up happening. It must get really annoying after awhile…

About SOTA itself

I have to say, teaching at SOTA is most certainly an experience that I wouldn’t have gotten if I taught at a mainstream school. I got my own cubicle (for once), my own laptop (an old white Macbook), and as long as I didn’t have lessons (and other work of course) I was pretty much left to my own devices. It definitely is convenient and awesome to work right next to shopping centres and an MRT station.

The school is really nice… I mean REALLY nice. Lots of open spaces for these artsy kids to do their artsy stuff, clean classrooms (mostly), and the view from the rooftop is absolutely stunning. Art pieces made by students litter the hallways. It’s kind of insane to think that this 10 story building right smack in the middle of Dhoby Ghaut is actually a school. No wonder it costs $350 a month just to study there.

All in all…

Teaching quadratic equations and linear graphs all over again was pretty fun. I was surprised by how much I still remembered despite not touching any math in years. On the whole it was quite an enjoyable experience, and I’m glad I did a short stint of teaching before university begins. Unfortunately instead of lording over kids while they rack their brains over exam papers I now consider to be simple, I’ll be the one taking exams in just a few months…

NUS, here I come.

P.S. this has got to be the most stereotypical blog post I’ve done in a long long time.

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So, #stopkony is trending everywhere, with people spreading around that 30 minute long video put out by an American NGO about a horrible warlord in Uganda that’s slaughtering people, causing misery, kidnapping children, etc. It’s a horrible situation, no doubt, and yes he should be stopped. But seriously, clicking “Like” and “Share” isn’t doing a single thing to help him.

Simply being aware doesn’t solve the problem

First off, even the NGO themselves stated that the goal was to pressure the US government into dumping resources into helping to stop this evil-doer. Yes, spreading awareness is the first step to getting policy-makers to listen up, but the ultimate goal is to effect changes in policy, not just spread awareness. It’s pretty annoying when people think they’re suddenly humanitarians just because they shared a video with tons of people and that they’re actually helping to alleviate the situation over there. No, you’re not. Spreading awareness is just a stepping stone to your final goal of stopping this madman. If you don’t take the extra step to contact policy makers or donate money or something, you’re not helping that much. For sure, you’re helping to spread awareness about the issue, but that’s it. You’re not stopping the guy.

Saying that “spreading awareness” causes Kony to stop his violent actions is like saying buying home bread and ham will cause a sandwich to make itself.

Awareness is necessary, no doubt

Don’t get me wrong, having awareness of what’s going on in the world is definitely a really great thing. But it’s just like how everyone is aware that millions of kids in Africa are starving, dying of illnesses that are easily treatable in more developed countries. We’re aware of them for sure, and we certainly do feel sorry for their plight, but we don’t think we’re actually doing anything to help them simply by being aware and being sorry for them. If we spread an image of a starving African kid on Facebook, we don’t think we’re actually helping that kid get food do we?

But when it’s an organised campaign by a NGO, we feel like we’re part of this cause just because we “Share” their Youtube video, we feel like humanitarians. But in all honesty, we really aren’t.

So yes, thank you for letting me know this situation is happening, but don’t delude yourself into thinking you’re actually stopping Kony simply by “Liking” the video.

Not to mention we’re a country of just 5 million people

So, now that we’ve established that getting the attention of policy makers is the only way we can actively help alleviate the situation, let’s discuss if us Singaporeans can actually do anything. Can anybody really envision a Singaporean calling up their MP’s office, asking them if our government is going to do anything about Kony? Is anybody really going to attend the next Meet the MP session to express concern about the situation in Uganda (even though he’s probably not even in Uganda anymore, more on that later)? Maybe a few might? But not many.

The fact is that we’re a tiny country that doesn’t have much resources to begin with. We have plenty of problems to deal with here in our own country. We have very little say in the international stage when it comes to situations like these. Honestly it’s pretty damn unlikely our government is going to actively do anything about Kony, and rightfully so.

Money money money

There is one way individual Singaporeans can help of course, and that’s to donate to the NGO who put out that video, Invisible Children, and hope that your funds do make a difference in stopping Kony through the actions of this organisation. If you do donate, more power to you, it’s great that you’re helping with money. Just know that this NGO doesn’t actually spend that much on actual aid to begin with (just 32% actually). They’re much more focused on spreading awareness. A really large part of their funds goes to stuff like filmmaking and travelling expenses, because the goal of this particular NGO is more to raise awareness rather than actually provide aid. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, you need some organisations to be focused on spreading awareness.

Not to mention it’d be pretty ridiculous to think that a NGO would just take the funds and hire some kind of private military to take down Kony, seeing as how that’s really the only way to actively bring him to justice.

Get your facts straight

Please know that all NGOs, despite their desire to do good in this world, will all at the end of the day have some form of agenda. It’s the reason why so many activist groups target Apple when it comes to working conditions in Foxconn factories in China, even though dozens of other big tech companies use Foxconn as well, and many other factories in China have even worse conditions. No, they target Apple because they’re the biggest target out there by far, everyone relates to them because so many people have an iPhone.

Now, I don’t know what agenda Invisible Children has at all, maybe they don’t have any, but then it begs the question as to why most of their video was pretty factually inaccurate to begin with. After getting all riled up about the video, it’ll come as quite a bummer that most of it is pretty factually inaccurate to begin with. There are many reports that Kony hasn’t even been in Uganda for about 6 years, and that this army of his that supposedly numbers in the tens of thousands probably only numbers in the hundreds now.

To quote Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama:

“To call the campaign a misrepresentation is an understatement. While it draws attention to the fact that Kony, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005, is still on the loose, its portrayal of his alleged crimes in Northern Uganda are from a bygone era. At the height of the war between especially 1999 and 2004, large hordes of children took refuge on the streets of Gulu town to escape the horrors of abduction and brutal conscription to the ranks of the LRA. Today most of these children are semi-adults. Many are still on the streets unemployed. Gulu has the highest numbers of child prostitutes in Uganda. It also has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.

If six years ago children in Uganda would have feared the hell of being part of the LRA, a well documented reality already, today the real invisible children are those suffering from “Nodding Disease”. Over 4000 children are victims of this incurable debilitating condition. It’s a neurological disease that has baffled world scientists and attacks mainly children from the most war affected districts of Kitgum, Pader and Gulu.”

Full article here.

So basically everyone got all riled up and spammed that “Share” button for something that ended 6 years ago… Oh well…

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 So in roughly 12 hours Apple is set to announce the next iPad. Seeing as how I haven’t blogged in almost a month, it’s high time I wrote about something.

First and foremost, please Apple, please somehow incorporate a stylus for the iPad 3. Apple recently started its forray into the distribution of textbooks via the iBookstore, as well as encouraging the use of iPads in schools. Now I know they introduced a lot of useful features like notes and highlighting to iBooks, and I know the touchscreen is great and all, but when you’re a student nothing beats scribbling stuff on the white margins of your textbook. And taking notes with a pen and paper still feels way more natural than typing (even on a physical keyboard).

Back in secondary school, I loved taking notes on my tablet computer in Windows Journal. It felt really natural, and I didn’t need to worry about wasting paper and any mistakes I made while writing could be easily rectified. However tablets from 6-7 years ago are vastly different from the “tablets” we know of today. Back then there was no such thing as touchscreens. Tablets were basically a laptop with a screen that could be swivelled around and laid over the keyboard. Also, the displays were only able to receive input from the special stylus that came with the tablet. This was pretty great because it meant that you could rest your palm on the screen while writing without worrying at all. 

Plenty of 3rd parties have introduced styli for the iPad, but the problem is that the iPad itself isn’t designed to receive inputs from a stylus. This is a really big problem because while writing, you can’t rest your palm or wrist on the screen while writing as the iPad would take that as input as well, thus interrupting your writing. Some apps have tried to mitigate this problem by introducing features that detect your palm and try to ignore that input, but it’s far from perfect. You still can’t comfortably rest your hand on the screen while writing, making it nigh impossible to easily take notes on your iPad without causing strain and aches to your wrist.

I’d be so damn happy if Apple somehow works some kind of magic and has some special stylus and some special app that allows the user to easily write on a capacitive touchscreen. The iPad 3 would become the only thing I carry all over campus in the future if that were the case.

Other than that though, I don’t really have any other wishes for the new iPad. People have been clamouring for a retina display on the iPad. While that would definitely be a nice addition, I have to wonder what kind of a nightmare it would be for developers to double the resolution of all their graphics. Furthermore, if powering this screen would require more juice which would cause a decrease in battery life, I would much rather live without a sharper screen thank you very much. The insanely awesome battery life of the iPad 2 I’m currently typing on is one of the biggest reasons why I love this device so much. Unlike my stupid iPhone 4S, this thing can last for days and days without having to get plugged in.

I’m sure Apple will try to make it thinner once again, but I don’t really think that’s necessary. What would be nice though is to make this thing lighter. Sure, in comparison to a laptop this thing is really light, but it’s still not light enough to the point where I can just bring it out with me whenever I want to.

So listen up Apple, writing and weight. Just handle those 2 things and along with many other students out there, I’ll be over the moon. 

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This whole social media phenomenon has really only caught on in the last few years. While social networking sites definitely did exist before (such as Myspace and Friendster), none of them had the monopoly that sites like Facebook and Twitter have nowadays. In the past, social networking sites were mainly targeted towards and suitable for youths. However, now people of all age groups have joined in, making social networking a much bigger entity than it has ever been.

With people now permanently connected with one another via such social networking sites, word of mouth marketing has never been more important and effective. One person’s endorsement of a product or brand on Facebook will immediately let his dozens and dozens of friends know about an awesome new product. A single celebrity with hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter could instantly make or break a product with his or her opinions on it. Thus, it’s no wonder that companies are increasingly engaging in social media monitoring, where they try to keep up with the buzz around their product. However, with billions of Facebook and Twitter posts to sift through, it can be quite a daunting task to find out what people are saying about your product.

Thus, services have popped up that assist companies and individuals in keeping track of what people are saying about their brand on social media sites. Sites such as sproutsocial do the dirty work of sifting through social networking sites and breaking it down into numbers and graphs, allowing users to instantly notice any trends at a glance. While many of such services can be a hit-or-miss, this sproutsocial review certainly has pretty good things to say about that particular service.

Social networking certainly is one of the many ways that technology is forcing companies to change the way they do business. It’ll be interesting to see how else companies will make use of this large network of people to market their products.

 

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It’s that time in my life where “earning money” is actually starting to become and issue. I guess I’m lucky enough that that time has come relatively late in my life compared to some others. It’s pretty damn hard to find people who are willing to hire me though. Even though I know I have some skills that are of value, it’s hard to convince others that I’m worth their time and money. It’s time like these when I really envy those who can earn money just by investing it properly, i.e. growing their money.

It’s kind of insane to think that there are people out there who can earn loads of money simply by being smart about what they invest their money in. Of course, there’s a ton of risk involved. The moment you make a bad decision, a ton of money is suddenly gone. It’s no wonder there are tons and tons of books and articles out there dedicated to teaching people how to invest appropriately to ensure they don’t end up losing all their money. For example Timothy Sykes news is one such individual who turned about $12,000 into $2 million over a decade. He’s continuing to earn money now by opening “classes” to teach people how to invest like he did.

Maybe I’ll dabble in stuff like that one day. For now, I need to find work.

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There’ve always been “music discovery services” floating around the Internet for years now. In all honesty, I haven’t found a single one of them that can accurately provide me with songs that I enjoy. Most of them usually ask you to name one or a couple of songs that you already like, then they’ll suggest other “similar” songs. From there, you have to manually tell the service whether you like or hate each and every song they throw at you to give them a better idea of what kinds of music to filter and present to you. What a hassle to begin with.

But it doesn’t work like that

The problem with this approach is that they’re taking a very scientific approach to music discovery. Oh, you like an R&B song? Well let’s play more R&B for you. The problem is that music doesn’t work like that. Just because you liked a particular R&B song doesn’t mean you’ll like all other R&B songs. You might have liked that first song because you liked the unique beat it had, or the unique vocals of that particular song. The fact that it was an R&B song was just a coincidence. But these “music discovery services” don’t know that. To the algorithm, both songs are tagged as R&B, so you should like both songs, right?

Of course, I’m over simplifying here. I’m sure there are many other algorithms that go into determining whether a particular song would be to your liking. But the fact remains that discovering music isn’t a scientific endeavour, but rather an intuitive one. That’s what’s so brilliant about Apple’s Genius feature. It relies on the intuition of other humans to decide what songs to suggest to you.

A little history…

For those who don’t know, Genius is a feature Apple introduced into iTunes all the way back in 2008. It’s s system that suggests songs to you based on what you already have in your library. Plenty of people saw this and immediately dismissed Genius as another way for Apple to sell you more songs from their iTunes Store. However, it goes way further than that. Genius also allows you to create playlists from your library based of off any one particular song. The genius (pun intended) of this feature and the factor that sets it apart from most other music discovery services is that instead of basing the suggestions off of the song’s descriptors, it bases it off of who else listens to that song as well, and what other songs they have in their library that you have as well. Once they find these common denominators, it’ll put it together into a playlist. The basic idea is:

Oh, both you and these 100 other users here listen to this particular song. And you have these 24 other songs that can also be found in the library of these 100 other users. I’ll put them all together into a 25 song playlist for you!

Of course once again I’m over simplifying and there are other algorithms at play here (e.g. For starters the 24 other songs they put in will most likely be the 24 most common songs among these 100 users, and they probably won’t suggest Heavy Metal songs when you chose a Pop song), but that’s the gist of how Genius works, and more importantly why it works so much better than other music discovery services.

“It just works!”

Genius is one of those Apple products that follows their mantra of “it just works”. Whenever I generate a Genius playlist, the other songs included in the playlist are oftentimes from vastly different artists, and even slightly different genres. However, for some strange reason, when I’m in the mood for that particular song I chose to build my playlist around, I will also be in the mood to listen to the other 24 songs that Genius chose for me. It works so well for me that I’ve more or less abandoned manually creating playlists because I completely rely on Genius to put playlists together for me.

Y U NO USE THIS FEATURE

And yet, despite being such a useful (and free) feature that’s included with iTunes, a surprising number of people actually don’t even know about it or use it at all. To be honest Apple didn’t even really advertise Genius much. They seemed to have made an even greater effort when it came to Ping, their attempt at a social network based around music. That turned out to be a huge flop, and rightfully so. Apple didn’t seem to realise that the last thing people wanted was another social network profile to maintain. Not to mention it hardly did anything out of the ordinary to justify their users spending time on it.

In comparison, Genius is a feature that actually works and is actually useful. Unfortunately the only problem is that few people outside of those who know the ins and outs of iTunes+iPod actually know of it at all. A problem that really needs to be rectified.

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Ringtones sure have come a long way. I still remember the days of monophonic ringtones back when Nokia still ruled the roost. Then when polyphonic ringtones came along they seemed like the coolest thing ever. Nowadays though, with every decent mobile phone able to play MP3 files, truetone ringtones have become the norm. However, it’s quite annoying to have your ringtone start from the beginning of a song, most people would much rather have their ringtone be the chorus of their favourite song. And that’s where ringtone makers come in.

Mobile 17 is one such site that assists users in creating their own custom ringtone. One simply has to upload a music file (in any of the common formats), and then use the website’s ringtone maker to set the time within the song that you want your ringtone to start from, and the desired ringtone will be created. Obviously, the most common use of this would be to cut out the chorus of famous pop songs, such as creating a Moves Like Jagger ringtone.

I’ll probably look into creating a ringtone for my phone sooner or later. I’ve always wanted to, but such tools weren’t really available a few years ago. With such tools to help facilitate the creation of ringtones, there’s little reason for me not to get my own one soon.

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